I’m an evangelical. I want everyone to find and follow Jesus. I believe He’s a choice you can make, not an inherited relationship that’s handed down from your parents, your church, or your christening as a baby. Salvation is an invitation you can accept. (Calvinists and Reformed peeps . . . please cut me some slack so we can avoid a theological distraction).
With that out of the way, I’m going to wade into the treacherous waters of what salvation really is.
I have always believed salvation came by saying the “Sinner’s prayer.” Something like this . . . “I’m a sinner, who needs a savior. Jesus, I believe you are the son of God who died to pay for my sins, and by expressing my belief in you and accepting your forgiveness, I’m going to heaven when I die.” A transaction has taken place, Jesus’ blood, traded for my sins. Salvation!
But there might be a problem . . .
When evangelicals “win” people to Jesus with a transaction, those people see Christianity as a transaction. An event. A status change. A box that’s been checked.
So later on, when the professor rocks their world with a theological challenge. Or a friend dies in a car accident. Or the girl they fall in love with isn’t “into religion,” the box gets unchecked, and the beliefs they traded for are traded away, often with little thought or feeling of loss.
I believe salvation comes in a relationship with Jesus.
Jesus’ ask wasn’t about believing in Him. He talked about that exactly once, in John 3:16. His ask was “follow me” . . . something He said twenty-two times in the New Testament.
In his book, Eternity is Now in Session, John Ortberg talks about salvation as the minimum requirement for eternal life with God. He draws a comparison to a marriage where the husband and wife focus only on the minimum requirements . . . an executed marriage license and some kind of ceremony. A transaction.
But we married people know that marriage is vastly more than that. It’s a relationship. It’s communication, intimacy, forgiveness, teamwork, and grace-giving. Salvation cannot stop at a transaction! It must involve a relationship . . . one filled with gratitude, love, engagement, peace, and presence.
Jesus invites us into a relationship, not just a transaction. A relationship with Him, not just a book about Him. A relationship that’s interactive and intimate, that’s 24/7, not just in church on Sunday. A peaceful life in His constant presence. That’s following Jesus. That’s heaven on earth, here and now.
Do you believe in Him? Or do you follow Him?
Scripture: Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)